Bootleg, Vol. 2: From Memphis to Hollywood

by: Johnny Cash

The second volume in Johnny Cash's Bootleg series, subtitled From Memphis to Hollywood, is, in a different way, just as revelatory as its predecessor. The initial volume contained two discs packed (mostly) with tracks that Cash called the "Personal File." Cash recorded these songs for himself between 1973 and 1982: originals, folk ballads, and spirituals with stories and recollections about the material on the tapes. From Memphis to Hollywood is another treasure trove compiled by Legacy. These two discs contain 57 tracks, recorded between 1955 and 1969. Disc one commences at the very beginning, with Cash's first-ever radio performance with the Tennessee Two at KWEM in West Memphis, AR; these ten cuts include the sponsor announcements. (This material was included on the bonus disc in the limited-edition Legend box set.) These are followed by 12 previously unissued demos recorded previous to and about the time he signed to Sun -- though the dates and locations are unknown -- with just Cash and his guitar. Among these cuts are the earliest known versions of "I Walk the Line," "Get Rhythm," "You're My Baby" (a hit for Roy Orbison), and a full band demo for "Rock and Roll Ruby" (a hit for Warren Smith). There are a host of Sun rarities too, including a 1957 rehearsal of "Big River," and another pair of unreleased demos. Disc two commences in 1958 with Cash at Columbia. These 25 selections include B-sides, studio outtakes, and singles that never made it onto proper albums. The first three cuts, are all flipsides that retain the reverb-laden Sun rockabilly sound, while tempering it with a chorus of backing vocals that represent the sound of the new countrypolitain Nashville. Other cuts represent tunes Cash wrote for television programs and document his California years, such as "Johnny Yuma Theme" (not his "The Rebel--Johnny Yuma"), and "Five Minutes to Live," recorded for an unmade movie he was to star in. These performances have never been available in the United States; most of the music on disc two hasn't. There are stellar studio performances of "One Too Many Mornings," "Johnny Reb," and the original studio version of "Girl from Saskatoon" co-written with Johnny Horton (the solo version on Personal File is preferable). There are three unreleased demos on disc two to round this out in "Hardin Wouldn't Run," "Six White Horses," and the original demo for "Come Along and Ride This Train." This disc showcases Cash as he rose to prominence and became a household name, with most of the music on par with his hits. The package contains a fine set of liner notes by Ashley Khan, and rare photographs. Like its predecessor, Bootleg, Vol. 2: From Memphis to Hollywood is essential for Cash collectors and hardcore fans, adding even more depth and weight to his enormous stature in American popular music. ~ Thom Jurek

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